Tuesday, December 14, 2010


If you take the notion that writing is a conversation with the Cosmos, it becomes easy to finish off the equation with the notion that the other side of the equals sign is reading.  Reading is the other force in the arrangement, the two activities keeping you connected no matter what the writing project of the moment (right now it is two book reviews) and often balancing the reading accordingly.

If you did not have before you the two books to read and review, you would doubtless be going full-bore into the current edition of The Paris Review because of its long and penetrating interview with Louise Erdrich.  Not that you won't be at that by Thursday, not that the interview won;t be in its way speaking to you as though an interesting conversation in a neighboring room, creating wonderment and distraction from what you need to be reading and writing.  This is the way the pattern works for you.

If there were no books to review or interview to read, you would be puttering with the novel that has been reaching across a chasm of grief and distraction, a clear path of enthusiasm to walk that will lead you back to risk-taking-as-usual, which provides its own kind of emotional reward.  You would, under those circumstances, find something to light upon, likely the London Times Literary Supplement, which would get you thinking about subjects you would ordinarily not be thinking, making you aware of more things you wished to read, all of which has you wanting to enter the cosmic conversation and do so by writing to see how your responses come forth.

You do work best under the gun of some deadline; an impetus in which deadline and roaring enthusiasm are married is irresistible. The real excitement is the synecdoche, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, where the potential for conversing with or about a topic raised in the relative past or the distant past adds texture and dimension you'd never guessed at when you first began to imitate those early writers you so admired that you wished to join them.

It is a lovely process when it works; you see yourself not as a man pushed well along into the habit of working daily at his craft but more as an eager young student, waving his hand to be recognized by the teacher so that he can demonstrate his own addition to the conversation.

The platforms and potentials for making some regular form of income from indulging this conversation have shifted measurably from the days when you sought to learn how.  There were any number of publications for which you could have (and ultimately did) focus your attempts to join the conversation.

Now it becomes necessary to engage the kinds of conversation for which you have no ability much less interest in order to live entirely from the payment your writing brings.  Thus your sidelines of editing and teaching.  These activities are entered so directly, without deliberation or thought that you take them as being a part of the conversation; seeing what you do as conversing still has things agreeably if not ideally reduced to the common denominators of reading and writing.

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